Frenchman travelling penniless around the world says Northern Irish ‘hospitality’ the best in UK

A Frenchman trying to travel the world penniless has spoken of the warm welcome in Northern Ireland.

It’s not all easy, as the traveler Charles Attonaty can go without food for long periods of time, with strict rules dictating that he does not explicitly ask for food or sleep in people’s homes.

In addition, he is not allowed to work on the side to raise money.

Charles regularly shares social media posts with those who have helped him along the way by offering transportation, housing, or just company.

In an Instagram post, Mr Attonaty explains how he went a day and a half without eating or drinking.

Then a kindhearted soul named Eddie from Ballycastle came to his tent with a sandwich, drinks and a packet of biscuits.

In another, he enjoys fun with a Northern Irish mother on the beach as she hoists him onto her shoulders.

He told the Belfast Telegraph: “I’ve had a warm welcome to Northern Ireland.

“So far the hospitality here has been the best I’ve experienced in the UK, with the exception of Rathlin Island (which wasn’t so positive).

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“One of the gestures of kindness I’ve noticed is when locals come up to me and offer their help without judgment and without knowing my story.”

Derry Now has reported how Charles relied on the kindness of strangers during an adventure that began more than two years ago.

The 29-year-old has already been on two trips after the cancellation of a planned holiday to Thailand due to Covid in July 2020 sparked his inner wanderlust.

“One day I decided to take the road, I took some gear and a backpack around 7:40 p.m.; not even my parents knew,” he told Derry Now.

Travels initially took him through Eastern and Northern Europe, professional commitments eventually brought him back to France both times.

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In the past he worked for Deliveroo and ran his own grocery delivery business before deciding to hit the road.

Speaking to Derry Now, he explained: “I handed over my business to an employee; it was crazy I gave them everything. The third stage was similar; alone, no plan, but no time limit now.

“I’ve been to France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway in the winter. Sometimes it was 32 degrees below zero.

“This is my fourth step now. I was in the north of France, in Calais, telling my story to a French ferry company and they said, ‘That’s crazy, we’re offering you a ticket to England.’

“So I was in England, Wales and Scotland. I was at Isla and Louis St Harris and then I had the opportunity to go to Northern Ireland.”

The French native says he “almost died” in the stifling heat of Turkey and temperatures of -32 degrees in Finland.

Northern Ireland is a very different perspective. On Thursday afternoon, Mr Attonaty knocked on the door of Ciaran and Majella McNicholl in Glenullin, County Derry.

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“We were doing Freddie’s homework and he overheard conversations and he and Connie thought their daddy was home,” Majella told Derry Now.

“I went outside and Charles was talking to the dog outside and he just asked if he could use the toilet so I showed him where it was and went back into weaning.

“We were just talking, I was probably very curious! He said he was a French traveler or backpacker so I asked him about it.

“I figured maybe he hadn’t eaten in a while and offered him some food, made him a sandwich and he told me the madness of what he was doing.

“When Ciaran came home from work, Charles was sitting here eating spaghetti bolognese with the two weans. I never had a chance to call him and tell him anything.

“Ciaran is probably even more welcoming and friendly than I am, and when he got home he sat down and asked Charles every question I had asked him before.”

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